10 Ways to Get a Closer Look at St. Louis’ History

By Courtney Drake-McDonough

Regardless of your religious affiliations, the Cathedral Basilica is a sight to behold.The one and only time I had been to St. Louis was to be driving through it on a family roadtrip to the east coast. The famous and shimmering Gateway Arch was off in the distance. “Look kids, there’s the St. Louis Arch!” yelled my husband. “Cool!” the kids said from the back seats and went right back to sleep. “We should really stop here sometime and see the Arch, up close,” I said. Well, it was a good ten years later when I finally made it to St. Louis to check out the Arch, and a lot more, up close.  Here are 10 things you really have to see!

Campbell House Museum – Built in 1851, stepping into this museum is also stepping into the lives of the Campbell family who suffered tragedies and good times in this home. Experience the Gilded Age and see hundreds of original possessions of the family including Mrs. Campbell’s recipes and even wine corks from elegant dinners with the rich and famous.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis – The Roman Catholic Church, in the Central West End area was completed in 1914. There is no paint in this cathedral. Instead, it contains the largest collection of mosaics in the Western Hemisphere! One side sparkles in the morning and the other side does in the afternoon. There is a Tiffany window at the back and all of the marble is from Italy. They have concerts year-round but Christmas brings the biggest draw.

Pure whimsy and wonder flow through all 10 floors of the City Museum.City Museum – There’s probably nothing like this place, anywhere! Housed in a 600,000 square foot, 10-story former International Shoe Company, this museum for the whole family was created by Bob Cassilly, a sculptor, entrepreneur and kid at heart. Everything in the museum is made up of “found” items from within the municipal borders, making it a true reflection of the city. While the inside is really amazing, it’s the rooftop that is mind-blowing.  Climb around the inside of a former planetarium dome, sit in a school bus that hangs off the building and wriggle through a slinky-like tube to an airplane. It’s pure fantasy and fun.

Eat Saint Louis – How often do you get to combine historic tours with a meal? During a three-hour walking tour, get to know The Hill, the St. Louis neighborhood famous for its Italian history and cuisine. Feel in-the-know about favorite markets (and the famous sandwiches made there), the kind of cheese, crust and toppings that make St. Louis pizza unique and much more.  All the walking helps counter all that good food. 

Gateway Arch National ParkBuy tickets in the Old Courthouse and, while there, take a look around. This is where Dred & Harriet Scott sued for freedom from slavery and where Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote.  Then head over to the Gateway monument, get in the small compartment to ride up to the top (if you’re claustrophobic, think twice) and then be amazed by the views. Being inside the Arch is a strange but wonderful experience.

Gateway Arch – standing at the base is plenty impressive but going up inside offers amazing views of the city.

Gateway Arch Riverboat Cruises – Before or after your visit to the Arch, a Riverboat Cruise is a great way to get a view from the river plus learn a ton about St. Louis’ history from the comfort of your seat on the boat.

Missouri History Museum – The beautiful building contains a lot but in a manageable size. Be sure to catch the exhibit “Route 66: Main Street Through St. Louis,” running through July, 16, 2017. It’s a blast from the past perfect for multi-generational visits.

Saint Charles Historic District – The home of Daniel Boone and a rendezvous spot for Lewis and Clark, you can take a charming trolley along the brick-paved streets of Missouri’s oldest and largest historic district. See beautiful architecture, shops, antiques and restaurants.

Saint Genevieve – Visit the French settlement community which contains the largest number of vertical-log construction (the opposite of a typical log cabin) French Creole buildings in the U.S. Stroll through the streets and see one charming building after another. Learn about the area’s rich history and meet residents, 80% of whom are still of French descent.

Saint Louis Art Museum – With a gasp-worthy view, the original building was constructed in the 1800’s for the World’s Fair. Of all of the buildings created for that famous fair, this is the only permanent one that still remains. The Beaux Arts architecture with classical designs and Roman arches, it’s something to see. The art collection inside the main and new, linear building is impressive and has something for everyone’s interests.

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